The democratic nominee Barack Obama has given his famous speech titled as A More Perfect Union on March 18, 2008. It became known as the “race speech,” in which Barack Obama explained his attitude to the problem of racism that still existed in the United States. This speech characterizes Barack Obama as a great political leader of America who strived to become a President of the entire American nation, irrespective of races, ethnicities, political viewpoints, religious beliefs, and other factors that divided the multiethnic American people. At the same time, Barack Obama’s speech revealed that he lived in the reality of rich people, where problem of racism did not exist, behind the imaginable high stone wall that separated him from the whole American society with its challenges, expectations, and worries. Obama wanted to unite the nation for the further development of democracy, for the improvement of social and educational situations, and to make all people happier. Unfortunately, the problems of racism could destroy all his hopes, considering his background. Through his speech and actions, President Obama can be considered as a typical assimilationist who did not want to solve racial problems in the country, which helped resurrect racial tensions after the victory of the Republicans.
The United States of America is the most powerful world’s country with a highly developed civic society. It became a real example for the rest of the world in regard to how to develop economy, society, foreign and domestic policies, and how to achieve the real democracy in all spheres of life. In this context, the two presidencies of Barack Obama became solid evidence of the real democracy in the former English colony which eliminated slavery after gaining independence. Therefore, Barack Obama’s speech of March 2008, the speech of the first African American President, became one of the most important political events in the modern American History. First of all, it was a speech of a real great political leader who strived to become a President and a leader for the entire American nation, multiracial and multiethnic. Barack Obama understood the presidency as an everyday routine job, performed for the sake of prosperity and peaceful happiness of the entire nation, irrespective of races, ethnicities, religious beliefs, or political viewpoints of the American citizens. The major idea of his speech was to inform Americans that their tragic past had already fallen into oblivion, never to return. He called for Americans to unite themselves for the ideals of democracy, regardless of their ethnicities, for the sake of the further political, economic, social, and cultural development of the United States. Barack Obama stated that “we perfect our union by understanding that we may have different stories, but we hold common hopes… to move in the same direction — toward a better future” (“Transcript Barack Obama’s Speech on Race”).
Barack Obama had the solid evidence to believe that his presidency could unite the nation, because “in South Carolina, where the Confederate flag still flies, we built a powerful coalition of African Americans and white Americans” (“Transcript Barack Obama’s Speech on Race”). He believed in the idea of democracy which could unite the entire nation, as it happened in South Carolina. Of course, Obama was right, because each American citizen cherishes liberty, democracy, private property, and happy life in the United States, one of the most successful places on the Earth. At the same time, Barack Obama made a serious mistake, stating that “we do not need to recite here the history of racial injustice in this country” and “we do not need to remind ourselves that so many of the disparities that exist between the African-American community and the larger American community” (“Transcript Barack Obama’s Speech on Race”). He tried to evade an issue of racism in America for the sake of unity of the American society. Nevertheless, Barack Obama recognized that he saw racial tensions during the whole campaign, and for the sake of unity, he decided not to focus on it, and it was the most dramatic point of his speech. On the one hand, it characterizes Barack Obama as a real great political leader, wanting to unite the entire nation for the future struggle for democracy, but on the other hand, Barack Obama should not have neglected such an important problem of racism that still exists in America.
Racism has been the most dangerous problem for the American society during a long period of time, because President Obama did not want to solve it. He explained his intentions to achieve a better healthcare, education, and social standards for the entire nation. It would have been a great idea if racism had not existed in America in reality. At the same time, Barack Obama explained his origins, emphasizing his belonging to both White and African races. Moreover, Barack Obama attended the African American Protestant Church of Trinity, being a member and a leader of an African American community. He knew about the problems of ordinary African Americans — moreover, he was not only a parishioner, but also a close friend of Reverend Wright, a famous African American public leader. Obama devoted the sufficient part of his speech to his relations with Wright. Thus, he emphasized that he did not support Wright’s attitude to the racial problems in the United States, but he still cherished him as a close friend of his family and a famous public leader. Obama believed that Wright divided the society because he condemned racism, unable to recognize the rightness of all Wright’s statements concerning American people of color. Obama seemed to have considered himself as a successful white person who loved people of color. He did not want to focus on African American problems, and maybe, it was a secret of Obama’s success in the campaign — African Americans believed he could protect them from racist aggression of Whites, and Whites considered him as one of the successful Americans who would not focus on racism.
Eduardo Bonilla-Silva did not have any illusions concerning changes which President Obama would intend to bring to the entire African American community. He criticized the speech of Obama for minimization of racism in America nowadays by referring to the past, when racial segregation and Jim Crow Laws existed. Thus, Bonilla-Silva noted three shortcomings in Obama’s speech: racism as “a moral problem…, racism as a two-way street…, Obama’s post-racial call for everyone to ‘just get along’” (Bonilla-Silva 266-267). It revealed that Obama did not consider racism as a serious problem in the society with its structure, which Whites have been creating for years. As a matter of fact, Barack Obama denied the social construction of race. Perhaps it was a good idea not to focus on racism during the campaign, but Barack Obama did not make the most important thing — he did not declare the racist attitudes as a crime, which posed a threat to the integrity of the United States. Obama was right in stating that the times had changed, but unfortunately, he could not understand all changes and the challenges they had brought to the modern society. Instead of it, Obama denied the social structure of race. On the contrary, even smallest insufficient contradiction among ethnic groups of the modern society could become a major reason for any inner bloodshed interracial conflict in America, which international terrorism could use for its purposes.
All aforementioned facts prove that Barack Obama considered himself as a successful American who lived in his own world without any racial prejudices. It meant that the colorblind racism, constant abuse of African Americans in everyday life, and the experienced humiliation were unknown to Obama. Nevertheless, Eduardo Bonilla-Silva states that “all socioeconomic indicators reveal severe racial gaps in income, wealth, housing, and educational and occupational standing” (258). According to him, the unemployed African American constituted 11.9 percent in 2008, which amounted to 32.8 percent of all young people. At the same time, only 5.8 percent of Whites were unemployed in 2008. Moreover, “Blacks and Latinos had poverty rates of 24 percent and 21 percent, respectively, compared to a 10 percent poverty rate for whites” (258). It proves the existence of racism in America, when Whites have better social, cultural, and economic conditions than other ethnic groups. Of course, Barack Obama should have focused on solving this injustice instead of analyzing his relations with Reverend Wright. Moreover, African Americans with other non-white ethnic groups only aggravated the situation during Obama’s presidencies (259). Furthermore, Eduardo Bonilla-Silva concludes that the entire situation with racial relations remained unchangeable since the 1980s, and it makes everybody think about the future development of democracy in the United States.
Racism in America still remains a major threat to all democratic reforms in the society. Unfortunately, both presidencies of Obama did not improve the situation. As Michael Eric Dyson states, Barack Obama did not fulfill African American expectations for the sole reason of remaining racially neutral, as “a president who was afraid to address their concerns effectively” (Dyson 15). Of course, it became the major reason for various racial and other anti-social riots in America during Trump’s election campaign in November this year. Thus, 206 anti-immigrant and 151 anti-African American riots took place in the United States, according to the report of the Southern Poverty Law Center. It is solid evidence of the wrongful policy of Obama concerning the colorblind racism in America. Of course, President Obama could not mention racial problems in his A More Perfect Union speech, but he should have done his best to protect the society against any racial aggression or humiliation of an ordinary American citizen, irrespective of their ethnic origins. He did not have any reasonable obstacles that prevented him from establishing a special committee consisting of the most prominent American political leaders, journalists, activists, lawyers, and representatives of the Democrats and Republicans, aimed to develop a special project of the legislative act forbidding any racial aggression in the United States forever. If President Obama had tried to do it in a proper way, this project would have become law, and President Obama would have become a real American Hero, like Martin Luther King or President Kennedy.
Barack Obama wanted to become a favorite president for each American, irrespective of the ethnic origins, religious beliefs, and political viewpoint. He did not want to focus on racial problems in America for the sake of creating a more democratic society. Nevertheless, his ignorance in regard to racial problems became a reason for election of Donald Trump, famous for his racial rhetoric concerning illegal immigrants and non-white Americans. Barack Obama disappointed the expectations of millions of non-white Americans of a better life in a real democratic society. Now, Donald Trump is a President who will not conduct any democratic reforms in the society, and the social, political, and economic conditions of non-white Americans will remain worse than they were under Obama’s presidencies. The first African American President Barack Obama did not fulfill the expectations of millions of his compatriots in regard to a better life in the most democratic country of the world, the United States of America, because real democracy in any society excludes the existence of colorblind racism.
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